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  • Writer's pictureRon Common

New Year, New Roof

Against the odds, the restoration project made some exciting progress over the winter and, after decades without a roof, the cottage is starting to look like a proper building again. Faced with lockdown restrictions, supply chain problems, one of the coldest, wettest Januarys ever and problems with the building, the restoration team had more than its fair share of challenges to deal with over the last 3 months. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way and despite everything, its been one of the most productive periods on the project so far. It began on that brilliant day, last October, when we witnessed Birdswood transporting the roof timbers from the Cromford Wharf to Lea Wood Pump House…

A few days later, on the 1st November, the wall plates and first rafters were fitted and the intention was to get the roof frame completed by Christmas.

However, that plan was quickly revised when it became clear that modifications were needed to the wall heads and the front wall needed supporting before the heavy roof structure was built.

On 18th November, a decision was made to install the first floor (ahead of the roof frame) since it would provide additional support to the walls. The joists are attached to the front and rear walls using stainless steel bolts, so the whole floor becomes a structural member. Also, two steel beams connect the original central wall to the front wall, providing further support.

Originally, the central wall supported the front of the cottage, but it partially collapsed years ago and is not being replaced. Instead, a central timber truss will span the building to support the roof.

Installing the first floor provided a useful working platform for the construction of the roof frame, which had to be cut and assembled on site, piece by piece.

On 1st December, 2020, we were delighted to receive support from Ilkeston Ply and DIY which provided all the timber for the first floor as a gift to the project.

The company had been following the restoration on the Friends of Aqueduct Cottage Facebook page and made the offer over a year ago. Despite the months of delay caused by the pandemic, they stuck to their original commitment and delivered the timber within a couple of days of a follow-up call. How brilliant!

On 8th December (4th birthday of the FoAC) the first joists were fitted by our volunteers. It was an exciting moment to see the first new timber being fitted as part of the replacement of the first floor (missing for 40 years).

By Christmas, the steel RSJ’s were installed and the first room of joists fitted. Outside, the large crack in the north gable end was repaired and the roof ridge-board installed. Our volunteers also finished rebuilding the dry-stone wall around the north-end garden.

Tinsel still adorned the scaffolding in the New Year when, on 4th January, activity had to be scaled down following the lockdown announcement. Thankfully, our builder, Andrew Churchman was able to continue working and by 13th January, all the first-floor joists were in and the floor was boarded.

On 25th January, work started on the construction of the timber roof frame by P T Joinery Services, which generously volunteered their services to the project (another amazing gesture of kindness).

The design (consisting of a central truss and 4 purlins) was conceived by Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust architect, James Boon, to meet the needs of DWT’ for an open-plan activity room on the first floor. James was assisted by GCA Structural Engineers Ltd, Derby, which provided the loading calculations.

Due to weight of the stone tiles (4.5 tonnes), the roof frame is a substantial structure which makes an impressive visual statement in the newly-created activity room.

Each of the 4 purlins consists of 3 large beams bolted together. The individual beams are almost 5 metres long and weigh around 70 kilos each. The “composite” design was a practical solution to enable the heavier sections of the roof frame to be cut and assembled on site.

Phil Twigg, our joiner, led the constuction process, assisted by Andrew Churchman and volunteers, as required, over a 3 week period, the results of which were outstanding.

Construction of the roof frame was obviously an exciting moment and once complete, the large bolted structure created a dramatic visual impact. The news was soon picked up by the local media and it even appeared on ITV’s Central News.

By 29th January, the long-awaited repair to the north gable end was completed and the main timbers were installed. Over the next few days, the rafters were added and by 11th February, the timber frame was complete.

At the time of writing, our volunteers, assisted by DCC, have transferred the tonnes of roof tiles to the cottage and construction of the two chimneys is underway using reclaimed bricks which match the originals.

Laying of the roof tiles will start once the chimneys are built. Stone tiles will be fitted to the front and blue slate to the rear. For additional light, 4 Velux roof lights will be fitted to the rear. The process is expected to take 4-6 weeks.

Fingers crossed, by April /May 2021 we will be attaching a piece of yew to the top of the roof in a “topping out” ceremony. Now that will be something to celebrate!

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